Flying South

It was our last day before our daughter Bea returned to Stanford, so we let her decide how to spend it.  Hiking was her first choice.   In Washington one must often decide—mountains or ocean?

But the trail at Ebey’s Landing on Whidbey Island gave us a little of both, plus some Washington State history.

The trail takes you past the historic house of Jacob and Sarah Ebey, built in the early 1850s, and the blockhouse built for protection from Native American uprisings.  (You can’t blame the indigenous people–they were there first.)

Isaac Ebey found his paradise on Whidbey.  The government was granting 640 acres to each homesteader.   Isaac convinced not only his parents, Jacob and Sarah Ebey, to come homestead on Whidbey Island, but several siblings and cousins as well.

From Jacob and Sarah’s house,  you can see Isaac Ebey’s homestead, pictured below.  He was one of the first white settlers on Whidbey Island, was the island’s prosecuting attorney, a representative of the Oregon State Legislature when Washington was still part of Oregon Territory, and he helped persuade the legislature to separate Washington from Oregon Territory.  Ebey was also a tax collector, a customs agent, and captain of the local volunteer militia.

But there was trouble in paradise.  In 1857 Native Americans–probably Haida–came to avenge the death of their chief at the hands of white men in Port Gamble.  The man they meant to kill wasn’t home, but they knew Ebey was an important man, and they knew where he lived.  They knocked on his door; when he opened it, they killed and beheaded him, taking his head as a trophy.

As we walked past Isaac’s house, I thought of his parents, wife, and children, left to grieve in paradise.

The view was heavenly.  From the bluff, we looked west to the Olympic Peninsula and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, to the south was Mt. Rainier, and the Cascade Mountains were visible to the east.

We took in the smell of salt, the sparkle of sunlight on the water, the feel of the earth beneath our boots.

The trail took us to the water, and then along some of Washington’s highest coastal bluffs.

Below was the beach…

…and Peregos Lake, formed by a narrow spit covered with giant weathered drift logs.

Via switchbacks we descended the steep golden hillside to the beach….

…where we found all kinds of treasures…

…including several dead Lion’s Mane jellyfish, which we examined in detail.

Each moment has become a precious memory which I will bring out and savor as needed, like a box of fine chocolates.

Looping back toward the trailhead…

…I thought about our little chick.

Soon she would be navigating a different coastline.

For her I wished for calm waters…

…and guiding light.

I had to remind myself how lucky we are.   When the pioneers struck out on their own and bid their parents farewell, it was almost always forever.

But for every bird flying south there will be another trip north.  And for every plane flying out of Seattle, there’s another one coming home.

All words and images copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: distance.

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To Shorten the Road

There is an old Irish folk tale about a father and a son who set out on a long journey.

“Shorten the road, my son,” said the father.  His son walked faster, to cut short their time on the road.  But the father rolled his eyes and went home.  The next day, they set out again.

“Shorten the road, my son,” said the father.  The same thing happened, and his father turned back.  On the third day, the lad’s mother whispered, “Tell your Da a story he has never heard, and you’ll no be back again soon.”   She was right.

My family and I have just returned from a journey of our own, but we already knew how to shorten the road.  In fact the North Central Library System hired The Baltuck/Garrard Family Storytellers to come tell stories on the dry side of the mountains.

Along the way we discovered more than one way to shorten the road…

It’s amazing, the fun you can have with one little bag of Space Adventure Goldfish Crackers.

That’s  probably not what the Irish storytellers had in mind, but there were also plenty of stories told to shorten the road, and the miles flew by.  On our storytelling tour we visited ten libraries in ten towns.   Each town and each library was different.  I loved the bleachers at the Brewster Library, especially when it was filled to the ceiling with kids who had come to hear us tell “Stories that Go Bump in the Night.”

Jennifer, one of the librarians at the Chelan Library, even made us a campfire!  Over a hundred people came to enjoy it with us.

Between performances, we explored.  On the wet side of the mountains, we sometimes forget how beautiful it is on the other side of the Cascades.

The Methow Valley is not just for skiers…

There was wildlife…

…right outside our door.

Sunsets were breathtaking, from Winthrop…

…to the streets of Chelan.

Everywhere we went, we found stories to shorten the road.  Many were true stories of Washington pioneers, as featured in this mural in Omak.

At the historical museum in Chelan, we learned about the First People of the land too, and then played ‘dress up’…

After our show in Manson, we ate at Blueberry Hill, a restaurant steeped with stories and decorated with a lifetime of memories from Grandpa’s shed.  It gives me hope–and ideas–about what to do with my own overcrowded storage room.

We sat outside on the deck overlooking their own blueberry fields…

The blueberries were as big as grapes…

…and the food was great…

…but the stories were what made this place really special.


In Twisp, every grocery run is memorable if you shop at Hank’s.  Hank and his son share their passion for big game hunting by lining the walls and topping their shelves with displays of their hunting trophies. It is an odd, but personal touch that piqued my curiosity about them. Perhaps next time I will learn more of that story.

After performing in Winthrop and Twisp…

..we dined at the Twisp Pub with our friend Carol. She stays with us in Seattle every May during the Northwest Folklife Festival, and at Christmas. It was a special treat to sneak in an extra visit to catch up on personal stories while sipping local cider and raspberry soda.

On our way to the Bridgeport Library the next day, we watched another story unfold as firefighters fought to control a brushfire. On our recent trip to Colorado, we steered clear of the fires, but the road to Bridgeport took us right past this one.  These folks are of sturdy pioneer stock, and they seemed to take it in stride, keeping one eye on the fire and the other on the tasks at hand.

It is nearing the harvest season, and there is much to be done. Central Washington is farm country.

Apple orchards everywhere have stacks of wooden boxes ready to receive this year’s harvest.

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On our way to Ephrata and Moses Lake, we saw acres upon acres, miles upon miles of wheat ripening in the fields, reclaimed from the desert…

…while the wind farms were busy harvesting nature’s energy.

Little towns and farms were carved out of the desert…

…and every road tells another story.

We passed through Dry Falls, a stark and dramatic landscape, reminiscent of the Badlands…

Before we knew it we were heading back over the mountains toward the ocean, the Space Needle, Mt. Rainier, and Lake Washington.


But we had filled up our story banks…

…on the roads of Washington, a land of stunning beauty, stark contrasts, good people, and rich history.  A well storied land.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: The Road Taken.